Friday, July 22, 2011

Update: Around the garden and yard (tip!), pickling, and looking for ideas

© 2011 Joshua Stark

Well, it looks as if my latest attempt to keep the ducks out of the raised bed (give 'em one bed, and fence the other with five-foot bamboo trellis) is proving successful, but I wonder if it's only because they are getting older and care less about thwarting me.  Whatever the reason, I'm getting a late batch of corn, beans and possibly okra - I'm especially excited about the beans.  I wish I had pictures for you all, but our camera was stolen from our car a couple of weeks back (along with my fly rod)...

The potato patch (described here) isn't working as I'd hoped - I only see one potato trying to grow, and it doesn't look like it can work its leaves through the bamboo sun-shade I'm using.  However, I'm still hopeful, and the plants I put in on top are still coming up, too.  They aren't looking too healthy, but this is a learning process, and next time I plan to layer some good soil from the worm bin in-between layers of straw.

My lawn experiment is also coming along nicely.  When I built our little duck pond last year, I inadvertently killed the majority of our lawn.  You see, I used the dirt from the pond to in-fill the lower sections of the yard, but I didn't really believe that the dirt below the topsoil was sterile.  Boy, was I wrong on that one.

Gratefully, the ducks have been fertilizing that dirt for the past year.  However, our very hard rains this year turned much of it into durn-near cement (if you put the emphasis on the first "e" in cement, you will pronounce that properly), and I, having no intention of renting a roto-tiller just to find out where my sprinkler lines are, started looking for a short-cut.  This time, to my surprise, I found one:

First, I mowed down the straw used by the ducks.  Then, I soaked the yard really good.  Next, I spread grass seed (by hand, of course - if I'm not renting a rototiller, I'm sure as heck not buying a seeder!), then covered them in a layer of mulched straw, and watered that down.  Every day for the first few days I sprayed the patch, and now, two weeks later, my test patch looks nice and green! A couple of days back, when I saw that the grass had established, I raked up the larger straw, and I'll be danged if it doesn't look like we have grass on our lawn. 

Of course, the ducks couldn't leave it alone, and there are a couple of holes (especially right where the sprinkler pops up), but those can be fixed with extra seed or a patch of sod.  Overall, I'm tickled pink at how well this worked. 

I also finally got around to dealing with my ketchup walnuts.  Instead of the nine days soaking in vinegar, I actually soaked them for over two weeks, and I must say that the vinegar became even darker than I'd remembered.  I wasn't too worried, though, since vinegar just gets better with age, and nothing was going to start growing in that acidic and tannic concoction.

Yesterday, I drained out the vinegar into a stock pot, put in some ingredients (drat! I forgot the horseradish), and about 30 minutes later, I canned four pints of green walnut ketchup. 

I then crushed the walnut chunks (I had a lot), added four apples and a cup of raisins, then some surgar and spices, and made up four pints of chutney, with a little left over for last night's dinner.

Both recipes can be found at my "Green Walnuts & You" page.  I added allspice and cinnamon to the chutney, and it is something special.  If you've ever had store-bought chutney, homemade blows it away - so long as you use good vinegar.  It is smoother, much less sharp, yet still vinegary in a good way.  I could have added some more heat in the form of more cayenne, but then my wife wouldn't have liked it nearly as much.  For dinner last night, the chutney and some yogurt made wonderful fillips for a split pea soup. 

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